Day 1: Fix Japan’s economy

Scott Tong Sep 25, 2007


Lisa Napoli: Japan’s new prime minister starts his job today. And as Marketplace’s Scott Tong reports, he inherits quite a load of economic baggage.

Scott Tong: Yasuo Fukuda is 71 years old. Over the years, he’s seen competitors like China forcing Japan, Inc. to become more nimble than ever.

Japanese banks need more outside competition, and loans need to flow to firms that are profitable, not just politically connected.

The reforms are ongoing, but Sheila Smith of the Council on Foreign Relations says they need to continue. And the Japanese people, who lived through the economic sclerosis of the 1990’s, know it.

Sheila Smith: Recession became part of the national psyche. That, with the confluence of a rising China, had a fairly strong impact on the Japanese sense of who they were and what they needed to get done.

But reforms are causing discontent. For instance, funding cuts to welfare programs and farmers.

Smith: The overall impression is that the security blanket that was so much a part of rural Japan is going.

Prime Minister Fukuda faces an immediate crisis: many Japanese are not getting their pension checks. The government has lost their records.

I’m Scott Tong for Marketplace.

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